Personality Traits Predict the Developmental Course of Externalizing: A Four-Wave Longitudinal Study Spanning Age 17 to Age 29

Kate E. Walton, Robert Krueger, Irene Elkins, Cassandra D'Accordo, Matt Mc Gue, William G Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The objective of the present study was to determine whether and how personality predicts the developmental course of externalizing problems, including antisocial behavior and substance dependence. In a large, population-based longitudinal study (N = 1,252), the 11 personality traits assessed by the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire were measured at age 17, and DSM diagnoses of adult antisocial behavior, alcohol dependence, and drug dependence were obtained at ages 17, 20, 24, and 29. We fit a quadratic multiple indicator latent growth model where the three diagnoses loaded onto an externalizing factor. This model fit the data well, and externalizing increased until it started to decline at age 24. High aggression and low control were the most significant predictors of the development of externalizing, with aggression playing a significant role in the development of externalizing across the 12-year time span, and control predicting the development from age 17 to 24. The findings highlight the importance of considering the developmental course of externalizing in the context of personality and suggest that the specific personality traits of aggression and control might be targeted in externalizing prevention and intervention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-375
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Preparation of this manuscript was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant AA009367 to Matthew McGue and National Institute on Drug Abuse grants DA005147 and DA036216 to William G. Iacono and DA038065 to Irene Elkins.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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